Graffiti appeared overnight at the Long Beach Convention Center denouncing federal immigration authorities who plan to begin using the site to house unaccompanied migrant children while officials work to reunite them with family or other sponsors in the U.S.
The graffiti included anti-ICE slogans and phrases such as, “There’s blood on your hands,” “concentration camp,” and “No kids in cages.” What appeared to be red paint was also dumped on the stairs leading to the Convention Center’s main entrance.
Police said they were first alerted to the vandalism, which stretched along the Convention Center from Seaside Way to Shoreline Drive, around 6:30 a.m.
By 9 a.m. police cordoned off the entire area where detectives and crime lab technicians were going over the scene.
Investigators believe four people wearing dark clothing, masks and backpacks spray-painted the messages around 3:45 a.m. before fleeing on foot, LBPD spokesman Brandon Fahey said. They also left flyers of migrant children who have died in U.S. custody.
The Long Beach City Council’s decision to let the federal government rent the Convention Center to house unaccompanied migrant children also sparked a rally Saturday where protesters called on the city to ensure transparency and humane treatment of the kids.
LBPD Police Chief Robert Luna has previously said ICE would not be involved in administering the shelter. It will be run by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, which is responsible for placing children with sponsors in the U.S. after they’re transferred out of Border Patrol custody.
Nevertheless, before city officials could allow HHS to lease the Convention Center, the City Council had to suspend portions of the Long Beach Values Act, which restricts cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Mayor Robert Garcia and the City Council have said the the decision to allow the holding facility is a humanitarian one prioritizing the reunification of families and children, many of whom are fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.
There’s recently been a huge increase in families and children traveling alone being apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, putting a severe strain on border holding facilities, which aren’t allowed to hold people for more than three days but often do. HHS facilities like the one proposed in Long Beach are responsible for holding them for longer periods of time.
The lack of space has left the government scrambling to find locations and hire staff to care for children until they can be placed with sponsors.
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